Do we need a Privacy Czar?

February 2nd, 2009 | Sources: Washington Post

Subjects: ,

For years privacy advocates have urged regulators to set standards regarding the scope of personal information collected by Internet companies, the time they’re allowed to keep it, and the use of such data to serve ads.

In the Big O administration, these groups see a new opportunity to press their cause.

The Future of Privacy Forum has asked the Big O to task a chief privacy officer who could formulate such policies, while the Center for Digital Democracy and US PIRG want the FTC to examine consumer privacy-threatening mobile marketing practices.

Then there’s the matter of how the government should handle data falling into its lap from people trying to friend the Big O on Facebook and government Web site visitors.

According to Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum, many government agencies appoint officials to oversee their Web sites’ use of cookies that track visitors, for example. But protocols governing search engines, video players and other online tools on these sites vary across agencies.

Polonetsky told the Washington Post that many countries in the EU as well as Canada and Argentina have appointed privacy czars, but the US doesn’t “have someone in charge.”

During the campaign, the Big O said he’d appoint a Cyber Czar, but that was in the context of discussions regarding cyber attacks and national security. It’s not clear this person will oversee Internet privacy.

And Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, scoffed at the notion of a privacy czar.

“We don’t need someone at the White House urging the industry to behave better,” he said. “Obama has called for a new era of regulatory scrutiny. Does that include online advertising and data collection?”


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